Beginning his career in India, Gurinder Kehr initially worked for his family’s business, a civil engineering division that worked with the Indian military. While there, he learned one of his most vital tools in leadership that he’s taken with him throughout his career: the importance of making quick decisions.
“While I’m a great believer in the collaborative style of management, and every member on my team has a voice,” Kehr explains, “I also recognize that dimensional decision-making rests with me.”
He goes on to say, “As you go up the career ladder, you realize that 90 percent of decision-making is automatic, because it’s either based on your experience or knowledge you have that others may not.” But, he adds that the key to making decisions is in the other 10 percent—when you may not have enough information but you’re still required to make a choice.
“That’s where it becomes important as a leader to be courageous enough to make a timely decision based on the information you have,” he says.
Kehr transitioned into the hospitality field, where he worked as a consultant developing restaurants like Central Kitchen and Bombay Barbeque as well as hotels in Southeast Asia.
Then, a multiunit franchise in California noticed that Kehr was doing projects in India cheaper and faster than it was in the US, and he was invited take over as the director of construction in 2017. He was given a brief to remodel 24 restaurants and build 4 new restaurants in a 5-year period. Kehr went on to remodel a total of 75 restaurants and built 22 new restaurants.
After the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kehr felt it was the right time for him to move on and do something different on an even bigger scale. “I had done all I could do there and had done so much faster than I anticipated. The joke was I’d probably work so fast, I’d have run myself out of the job,” he says.
Without anyone on the construction team—not even an assistant—Kehr was given a mandate to help stabilize Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and plan its expansive rollout across the US. Within a year, he’s managed to take the brand to Arizona, Texas, and California, and remodel 6 different locations, with another 20 in the works.
“I appointed multiple architects, and we came up with two new design concepts for the remodel program and two prototypical buildings to enable us to expand,” Kehr says. Together, they came up with a new prototypical building called Pioneer, which is your typical Coffee Bean. But they also came up with a modular concept called M One, which has had some advantages in the brand’s expansion plan.
“It’s called the M One because it’s designed to be flexible; you can expand the building depending on site conditions,” Kehr says. Rolling out in Arizona and Texas, at just 950 square feet, the M One is essentially just a drive through and ordering window. It has enabled the brand to generate a footprint in new areas at a lower cost, while improving brand visibility.
As he looks to remodel an additional 40 Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations and build new locations next year, Kehr’s focus isn’t just on giving them a design refresh.
“When I came here, I noticed that several our cafés had not been renovated for a long period of time, and I also recognized that the bulk of our footprint was very much a Southern California footprint,” Kehr says. “So, now that we are expanding, why not do it correctly? Why not leap for the future rather than just play catch up?”
For the director of construction, sustainability is about more than simply using recyclable materials and 3D-printed light fixtures. It’s about setting a standard for other companies. “The environmental aspect has been grossly misunderstood here in the US due to a lack of understanding on how we can transition without impacting existing businesses.”
However, Kehr assures that the corporate transition to sustainability is possible if businesses work together.
“I’m very happy to say that I haven’t lost a single vendor in the time I’ve been here,” he says. “I’ve partnered with all of Coffee Beans existing vendors, and even helped some scale up and identify what to do to go green. Within Coffee Bean, there is an understanding that we need to be committed to ensuring that our footprint does not adversely affect the environment, because, if you stand still, you’re going to get left. Not just as a company, but as a society.”
Congratulations Gurinder Kehr for your continued success and leadership!
RBI (Reliance Build Inc.) is an innovative leader in the ever-changing landscape of commercial construction. We quickly adapt to any size project. We put our customers first. We take pride in being the best commercial general contracting team in the greater Phoenix area. Our formula for success is simple: Plan. Build. Repeat.
We are proud of the partnership we’ve built with Gurinder Kehr and grateful for the excellent work we’ve had the opportunity to do together.